Franklin says goodbye

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Tara Franklin, who coached Middleton’s girls track and field team the last 21 years, won’t return in 2016./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Tara Franklin tried putting off the decision as long as possible.

She tried throwing it on the back burner this summer. She did whatever possible not to think about it this fall.

Finally, Middleton’s long-time and extremely successful girls track and field coach had to face facts. Her 19-year tenure as the Cardinals’ boss had to end.

Franklin became a mother for the first time — to twins Paxton and Keska — in January. And with her children now dominating her world, Franklin knew there simply wasn’t enough room in her life to coach track and field.

“I poured my heart and soul into it,” Franklin said. “I absolutely loved being with the kids.

“I loved every bit of it, cold days, rainy days. I felt like a Mom to so many of the kids and I’ve built so many lifelong connections and relationships. But I’ve never had my own kids, and if I kept coaching, I was going to have very little Mommy time.”
Franklin was a Middleton assistant in 1994-’95, then took the program over in 1996. Franklin led the Cardinals to a runner-up finish at state in 1996 — her first season as coach — then led Middleton to consecutive state titles in 1997-’98.

In all, Middleton had 11 top-10 finishes at state under Franklin’s guidance. And her final team in 2014 stunned many by finishing second at state themselves.

“She was obviously a model of consistency being here for so many years,” Middleton athletic director Bob Joers said of Franklin. “Even after so many years, I still see the passion she brings to the sport each year.

“She has been instrumental at helping create excitement in the program, which has grown in participation each and every year. We will miss her, but I have a feeling we'll still see her around the track. If she must go, last year’s season was an amazing way to finish her career.”

When Franklin arrived, there were 36 athletes in the program. Last year’s team had 130 when the season began.

Part of that was due to Franklin’s energy, passion and love for a sport she excelled in at Monona Grove High School. Part of it was Franklin helping athletes reach heights they hadn’t always believed were possible.

“I hope I made a positive impact on track in this area,” Franklin said. “I hope I impacted the kids, just to do better and push yourself. Don’t give up on yourself. We developed such a great program because of the hard work with the kids and the assistants.

“And I certainly learned it’s not the trophies you accumulate. They’re fun and they definitely help make memories. But it’s the connections you make with people that matter the most.”

That may be, but Franklin’s Cardinals were awfully good at finding the podium, as well.

During Franklin’s tenure, every school record was broken except for the shot put. Several athletes competed collegiately and brought a level of success the program had never seen.

“The bookends, starting at state and ending at state with second place finishes, really stands out,” Franklin said. “And all of the things in between were so much fun, too.

“All of the assistant coaches that poured their hearts out and built the program with me. We had so many people seeing the vision. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity.”

While Franklin definitely wants to focus on family for a while, she also said she hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching when her twins get older.

For now, though, she’s ecstatic to be a Mom and will happily let someone else take a turn with the program she built.

“I know it’s going to be in great hands,” Franklin said. “And I told the team, when the weather’s nice, you might see me push the double stroller over and help with some things. I probably can’t stay away from it altogether.”

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